Koh Rong could not be any further from Phnom Penh. It’s not long on a shuttle, about the length of A Rambo film, plus a short boat journey across to the island, but it feels a world apart. Once off the ferry, past the bars, shoddy hostels and even more shoddy owners, you are greeted with a beautiful beach. And just after the beach through the trees was our accommodation for a few nights. Right on the shore facing the ocean and a small island was a row of tree houses and 4.5 metres up was our bed. We checked in, were pointed at our hut and up we went. Unfortunately for us, we noticed the pieces of timber rotted and eaten by white ants, so the swaying really had an affect.
Nevertheless, we dropped, sorry, delicately placed our backpacks on the floor and headed back down the beach as we were told to book our ferry in advance. Apparently we could only do it the day before, so instead wandered back to the tree house where we chilled in our bar as the sun slowly set.
What was great about the tree house bar was not just its location, but it had the best wood fired pizzas. We thankfully already had a seat as the rest of the island tried to get their pizza, so watched on smugly with cheese on our chins and red wine in our belly. Already wobbly, we slowly climbed our wobbly tree house via a quick stop on the first floor bathroom. As we switched on the light we noticed a little visitor who appreciated the bugs. Her name was Lizzy… Obviously.
Mid-way through the night, the winds had picked up, so our tree house swayed and not much sleep was had. The following morning we wandered down stairs, snorkels already in hand and negotiated a kayak for a few hours. We strapped in our fins, our dry bag and paddled out to the small island for a morning snorkel. The weather was clearly turning but within half an hour we had dragged our kayak ashore and were in the water swimming out to the choppy water. It wasn’t the clearest water we had been in, and the marine life was nowhere as abundant as other snorkel destinations, but you know what, it didn’t matter. We were finally in the water and what we did see was pretty interesting. Lots of beautiful clams, different friendly fish and plenty of crabs scuttling across the coral. We were soon wrinkly so climbed to the top of the tiny island to see the temple before paddling back to our awaiting tree house.
We had some lunch with the sole intention of catching up with our lives. But the ocean was right there, so after a couple of hours we were in the water right in front of the tree houses. Again, the weather had picked up and it was pretty cloudy, but the water temperature was so nice, it didn’t matter. We finished the evening with the standard ritual of cold beer, delicious pizza and too much red wine.
The winds grew even stronger that night and we were surprised that even Lizzy the Lizard had managed to hold on.
When we woke the following morning, there was no chance we would be snorkelling. In between work and budget costings, we wandered back around to ferry terminal to book a ticket. We had seen the weather and inquired if the boat would still go tomorrow, the answer was – I am pretty sure. We had a quick swim in the protected bay and a couple of cocktails at one of the other bars. Midway through the first cocktail we realised their prices were too expensive for us, and felt we had cheated on the tree house restaurant so wandered back to resume our evening ritual in the afternoon.
As if on the same ritual as us, the winds picked up even more and the tree house swayed. When we woke the following morning, we packed our bags and wandered around to the Jetty. As we turned into the protected bay to see the sand swept away and the waves in the distance we expected the inevitable. I said to Sarah that if the weather was too rough, they wouldn’t go. But that was naïve Australian Health and Safety Wade thinking. When we arrived they said, jump aboard. In hindsight, our own red flags should have won over and we should have waited it out. We hit rough weather immediately and as they were unable to dock at a pier on another island, they decided to opt for a mid ocean disembarkation/embarkation for the extra passengers.
From there we hit the worst ever weather we have ever been in on a boat. It was a decent sized passenger ferry, but the waves still broke over the upper level. People vomited, some cried and Sarah bruised my hand by holding it so tight. The short journey I spoke about in the beginning took 3 hours. When we finally hit the mainland we were pale(r), wet and thankful. That journey had won the award for the scariest event of the trip, trumping any crazy drivers or the mob attack in India.
Even though we were a little rocky from the journey, I suggested lunch to Sarah as we had a bus to catch to Kep and it would be a few hours. With trepidation she agreed and we wandered around to another of the Friends group restaurants that we had/had tried to eat in Vientiane and Phnom Penh. This was called Sandan and had more of a focus on seafood. We arrived and ordered the Buffalo Lok Lap, a Cambodian dish that is normally served with beef and some scallops. The Lok Lap was delicious, albeit a bit chewy, but the scallops were amazing. One bite and we had forgotten the terrifying boat trip we just endured.
All that was left to do was jump on the shuttle to Kep. Sounds easy but the agency they lined us up with was run by the only two Cambodians we met who were lazy, rude and in need of reality check. As we sat for hours in their tiny roadside shack trying to get our money back, nature called. They pointed to a junkie riddled derelict building and laughed. Just as we began an abusive tirade at them, our shuttle appeared. Everyone in there seemed as annoyed as us so we got in and headed on the 1.5 hour journey to the little town of Kep.